Right to Rent rules for landlords have been thrown in to chaos after the government lost a challenge against the legislation in the High Court.
A judge found Right to Rent rules in England breached human rights laws and warned rolling out the scheme to the rest of the UK would break equality laws if the Home Office failed to carry out an ‘adequate’ evaluation of how the rules worked first.
The case was brought by the Joint Council of Welfare for Immigrants (JCWI), which claimed Right to Rent discriminated against immigrants and British ethnic minorities who did not hold a UK passport.
Right to Rent says that landlords must check the residency status of tenants before the start or renewal of a tenancy and cannot rent a home to someone who does not have documents proving they can live in the UK.
Failing to do so could lead to an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.
“Do landlords and agents no longer have to do checks? The short answer is that nothing changes for the moment,” said David Smith, a partner at property lawyers Anthony Gold.
“The ruling by a High Court judge is that the Right to Rent scheme, in its entirety, is in breach of the Human Rights Act because its inevitable consequence is to lead landlords to discriminate. However, the Human Rights Act does not permit courts to strike down primary legislation, so that legislation will remain in place for the moment and checks still need to be done.”
Smith also observed penalising a landlord for refusing to carry out a Right to Rent check could lead to more legal challenges.
The government has two options – appeal the ruling or change the law. An appeal is the most likely next step.
The Home Office says the ruling was ‘disappointing’.
Ban on ‘No DSS’ adverts
Landlords face a ban on advertising homes to rent that includes the words ‘No DSS’.
Housing Minister Heather Wheeler announced she is seeking the ban as the wording could lead to discrimination against tenants on benefits.
“Everyone should have the same opportunity when looking for a home, regardless of whether they are in receipt of benefits,” said the minister.
“With Universal Credit, payments can be paid directly to the landlord, and we continue to listen to feedback and work with landlords to improve the system.”